Monday, December 24, 2012

TFH 12/24: Red Arrow Heroes of Christmas Eve, 1942

The 32nd Infantry Division was comprised of Army National Guard units from both Wisconsin and Michigan when it was first organized 1917. The division served with the active United States Army in France for combat during World War I. The 32nd was the first Allied division to penetrate the Imperial German defenses of the Hindenburg Line in October, 1918. The Red Arrow on their division patch symbolized that, and they were thenceforth known as the "Red Arrows". For their tenacity on the battlefield, they were also nicknamed by our French allies "Les Terribles." Whatever enemy position the 32nd was given to attack, they always penetrated the defenses like an arrow. The division was demobilized in 1919 after the war's end.

After the fall of France to Nazi Germany in 1940, the Army felt that the United States' entry into World War II was only a matter of time and eighteen National Guard divisions, the 32nd among them, were federalized and called up in September and October of 1940. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 32nd was originally going to be one of the first American units sent to Europe, but it was decided to send them instead to Australia and use the Red Arrows in the South Pacific. Even though they were understrength and undertrained, they were sent to fight in the New Guinea campaign beginning September 13, 1942.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

TFH 12/23: The Greatest Play, A Dynasty Launched

Before the 1972 regular season, the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers had never finished better than second in their division. They won the American Football Conference's Central Division that year to secure their first ever playoff berth, and their 11-3 record brought the franchise's record to a pathetic 179-273. That's a .396 winning percentage.

Forty years ago today, the Steelers played their first ever playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium versus the Oakland Raiders. Pittsburgh and the surrounding communities were dying economically in those days. The steel industry was collapsing. Related jobs in mining and transportation were also on the decline. Other manufacturers such as Westinghouse were also reducing their presence. The Steel City was in pain, and the rise of the Steelers to competitiveness was one of the few bright points.

With the 13th pick in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft, the Steelers had picked Penn State's stand-out fullback, Franco Harris. Harris delivered on his first-round selection by racking up 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns during the season. Little did the rookie know that in the Steelers' first ever playoff game, he'd become the focus of the greatest single play in the history of professional football: the Immaculate Reception.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Running on the Third Rail

It is past time conservatives start running their campaigns with a "third rail" issue - the supposed politically untouchable - as a centerpiece. We're all fully knowledgeable that government spending is fraught with waste, fraud, and abuse. Our spending levels on government programs that are nothing but wealth redistribution whose costs far outweigh the value received and are completely unsustainable as we saddle future generations with more and more debt.

"Wait!", I hear you say, "Aren't conservatives already fully on board with entitlement spending reform?" Of course they are, for the most part. That isn't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about defense spending.

That's right, defense spending. If conservatives are going to truly and honestly stand for fiscal sanity and to win spending arguments in the future, fiscal policy proposals and narratives are going to have to include not just touching a third-rail of conservatism, but seizing it enthusiastically.

Our nation deserves it, our children who are being saddled with more and more debt deserve it, and most importantly, the brave men and women who wear the uniform of our Armed Services deserve the best of each and every dollar we give them to defend us with.

Apollo 17 Reprise & Thanks to My Readers

I'd like to thank everybody who helped make my series of posts on Apollo 17 and the end of the Apollo era some of the most read ever here at Their Finest Hour! In case you missed any of them, here they all are in one convenient landing page:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Apollo+40: "Hope for all...we can do anything."

For century upon century, to explore the Moon was considered the dream of the addle-brained or the foolhardy. Only divine beings or supermen could withstand the rigors and distance of such a journey. But then, early in the twentieth century, mortal humans went aloft on mechanical wings, defying gravity and redefining the realm of possibility. For ever after, the Moon became a goal within the grasp of those on Earth: for if man could build a machine to make him fly, he would eventually build one to take him to the Moon. When and how and who was only a matter of time. 
From December of 1968 to December of 1972, twenty-four representatives of the human race voyaged to the Moon, and half as many walked upon its surface. In all, nine voyages across the quarter-million mile distance from Earthly safety to Lunar emptiness, each one of them dangerous and expensive. The requirements to make the voyage a reality were the qualities that make humankind unique: our desire to achieve, our wear-with-all and perseverance, our willingness to sacrifice time, energy, and even life in the long labor needed to solve the problems one by one over the course of the endeavor. Most important of all was humankind's tendency to imagine things that are not possible. Imagining that it could be done was the very first step taken in the journey from the Earth to the Moon. 
-- opening narration by Blythe Danner, Episode 12: "Le Voyage Dans La Lune", From the Earth to the Moon (1998)
At 2:24:59PM, Eastern Standard Time, December 19, 1972, Apollo 17 splashed down in the south Pacific Ocean. Less than an hour later, astronauts Gene Cernan, Ron Evans, and Jack Schmitt were safe aboard their recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV-14). Their flight - man's final flight to the Moon - had lasted 12 days, 13 hours, 51 minutes, and 59 seconds.

Apollo 17 Commmand Module America with the USS Ticonderoga in the background
Ticonderoga was an appropriate ship for the voyage to end aboard. Six years and eight months before, Ron Evans was flying combat missions over Vietnam from her deck when he found out he had been picked to be an astronaut.

The Apollo Program was over.

Now forty years on, where do we stand as a nation of greatness, and when can we expect the human race to exceed its high point of achievement?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Apollo+40: Seventeen Leaves the Moon

When I last posted on the amazing journeys of Apollo 17, astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt had just left the lunar surface in LM Challenger to rendezvous with Ron Evans and the CSM America. I had intended to write a summary of the lunar and planetary science experiments that the mission executed from lunar orbit, but the events of Friday put me out of the mood.

A good rundown of the lunar science experiments carried aboard America during Apollo 17's time in lunar orbit can be found at the website of the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The orbital experiments were predominately contained in the Scientific Instrumentation Module (SIM) contained in the Service Module of the CSM spacecraft. A SIM was also included on both Apollo 15 and Apollo 16.

As Apollo 17 was going to be the last manned mission to the Moon for some time (little was it known then for how long) the astronauts spent more time in lunar orbit - over six days - than any other Apollo mission.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Apollo+40: Last Departure from the Lunar Surface

After three lunar surface EVAs (posts on EVA-1, EVA-2, and EVA-3), it was time for mankind's last two lunar surface explorers to start the process of heading home.

At 188:01:39 Ground Elapsed Time (GET), 5:54PM EST, December 14, 1972, human beings left the Moon's surface for the last time when Apollo 17's Commander (CDR) Gene Cernan and Lunar Module Pilot (LM) Jack Schmitt fired the engine in Lunar Module Challenger's ascent stage to return to lunar orbit and rendezvous with the Command/Service Module (CSM) America waiting in lunar orbit, having spent the last three days being solo flown by Command Module Pilot (CMP) Ron Evans.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Apollo+40: The Third EVA - "As We Shall Return"

For those who haven't read the plaque, we'll read the plaque that's on the front landing gear of this LM. First there's two hemispheres, one showing each of the two hemispheres of the Earth. Underneath it says "Here Men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind." It has the crew members' signatures and the signature of the President of the United States. -- Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11, 109:52:40 GET, July 20, 1969 at the Sea of Tranquility

Lunar Module (LM) Eagle's front landing leg carried that plaque to the Moon to commemorate and mark where Man first set foot upon a world that wasn't his. The journey, wonder, exploration, and discovery on the surface of another world experienced by just twelve representatives of all humanity was about to have its coda.

At 163:32:48 Ground Elapsed Time (GET), 5:25PM Eastern Standard Time, December 13, 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt depressurized their LM Challenger, opened her hatch, and began their third and final EVA - to date, Man's last trek out onto the surface of another world.
163:41:29 Cernan: Okay, Bob. I'm going down the ladder. 
163:41:31 Parker: Roger, Geno. (Long Pause) 
163:41:46 Cernan: Yup, still there, Jack. "Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17." 
163:41:52 Schmitt: Good. 
163:41:53 Parker: Amen there, Gene. Amen. 
163:41:58 Cernan: Okay, Bob, I'm on the (foot)pad. And it's about 4:30 [CST, time at Mission Control] (on) a Wednesday afternoon, as I step out on to the plains of Taurus-Littrow. Beautiful valley.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Apollo+40: The Second EVA - It's Orange!!!

Taurus-Littrow was chosen as the landing site for Apollo 17 because it was thought, based on observations by unmanned spacecraft and the astronauts on previous Apollo flights to be a "younger" area of the Moon; an area where volcanism had as much, if not more, an effect on the local geology than the tens of thousands of impact events that are self-evident just from glancing at the surface.

Lunar geology however, was at the bleeding edge of science. Eight months before Apollo 17, John Young and Charlie Duke landed in the Descartes Higlands with Apollo 16, briefed for and expecting to find volcanic rocks...and instead found almost nothing but breccias; rocks formed by impact events. Every discovery made from the Moon was significant, whether it proved an existing theory of the Moon or disproved one. Planetary geologists longed for a truly revolutionary find like the 4 billion year-old piece of anorthosite discovered by Apollo 15's Dave Scott and Jim Irwin, known as the "Genesis Rock".

Who better to look for something amazing on man's last voyage to the Moon than the only geologist astronaut? Jack Schmitt was also only one of two geoscientists in the astronaut corps (the other, geophysicist Tony England, had acted as Apollo 16's mission scientist from Mission Control). For an organization focused on the Moon, one would think NASA would have picked up a few more specialists in that area.

Gene Cernan and Schmitt, well rested after their first EVA the day before, depressurized their Lunar Module (LM) Challenger and began EVA-2 at 140:35:06 Ground Elapsed Time (GET)/6:28PM Eastern Standard Time (EST), December 12, 1972 - forty years ago.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apollo+40: The First EVA - A Flag Returns

When Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their LM Eagle in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969, they brought three flags with them. One was left there at the landing site, and two were returned to Earth. One of the flags that was returned was displayed in Mission Control in Houston until a short time before the flight of Apollo 17. That particular Stars and Stripes were stowed aboard Challenger for a return voyage to the Moon.

So far, we have met the crew of Apollo 17, launched with them, journeyed to the Moon, and landed. Forty years ago from the time of this post, the first of Man's three final excursions for discovery on the lunar surface began.

Command Module Pilot (CMP) Ron Evans maintained America in lunar orbit and conducted his own scientific program with the instruments onboard her while Commander (CDR) Gene Cernan and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Jack Schmitt prepared for their first EVA, just four hours after their landing at Taurus-Littrow.

The A7LB space suit model worn by Cernan and Schmitt on the lunar surface had also been used on the two previous "J" missions: Apollo 15 and Apollo 16. The suit was designed to be more comfortable and capable for the extended lunar stays of the later flights. The astronauts further benefited from being able to take it off inside the LM between EVAs.

At 117:01:49 Ground Elapsed Time (GET)/6:54 PM EST, mankind's last two Moon walkers depressurized Challenger, and began the first of the final three lunar EVAs.

Apollo+40: The Sixth Lunar Landing

The Apollo Lunar Module (LM) was the first true spacecraft - it was only designed for and able to fly in space, in a vacuum. Grumman completed twelve of them. Ten of the twelve flew, and eight made the journey to their intended environment: the Moon.

Apollo 17's LM Challenger was the 12th produced and would be the last craft to carry humans to the surface of Earth's Moon. She was built by hand in Grumman's plant in Bethpage, New York. When LM-12 was delivered to NASA, hundreds of men and women who built the crafts that had delivered ten Americans to the lunar surface - and which had saved the lives of three - had lost their jobs. It's a tribute to them all that Challenger was as ready, and performed as flawlessly, as her predecessors Spider, Snoopy, Eagle, Intrepid, Aquarius, Antares, Falcon, and Orion.

The date was December 11, 1972. Forty years have passed since a human prepared to land their craft and set foot on another world.

TFH 12/11-12: Lieutenant Lester H. Gamble, USNR

Motor Torpedo Boats (PT, by hull designation) were small craft armed with four anti-ship torpedoes and a variety of automatic weapons. These boats provided the United States Navy with a quick strike and raiding capability that was essential in the early days of World War II in the Pacific.

One variety of PT boat was the 77-foot Elco, so known since they were built by the Electric Launch Company. One of these specific boats, PT-45, was commanded by a 25-year old Navy Reserve Lieutenant from South Dakota named Lester H. Gamble. During a series of engagements in the larger Guadalcanal Campaign on December 11-12, 1942, and then January 2-3 and 14-15, 1945, Lieutenant Gamble pressed home successful torpedo attacks against Japanese destroyers despite the enemy's best attempts to sink him. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his courage.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Apollo+40: Apollo 17 to Lunar Orbit

When we last left Apollo 17, they had just set off on their long, two and a half day coast to the Moon. Astronauts Gene Cernan, Ron Evans, and Jack Schmitt - the 6th (Cernan, having previously gone on Apollo 10), 23rd, and 24th men to ever make the voyage - had an uneventful Earth-Moon transit and completed check-outs of their Lunar Module (LM) Challenger, conducted some scientific experiments on board their Command/Service Module (CSM) America, and finally on Flight Day 4 (December 10, 1972) reach the Moon and enter lunar orbit.

Here is a summary of major flight activities, times in Ground Elapsed Time (GET) unless otherwise noted:

Sunday, December 09, 2012

TFH 12/9: Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC

Alexander Archer Vandegrift was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on March 3, 1887. After three years at the University of Virginia, Vandegrift was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps on January 22, 1909.

As a junior officer Vandegrift was a troublemaker and not thought of well in any way by his superiors. His first fitness report included this comment:
This officer has not shown that he appreciates the responsibilities of his position as an officer, and unless there is a decisive improvement, his relations will not be to the advantage of the service.
Good for the Marines they chose to keep him around and give him a chance, because he definitely seasoned with age - a glimmer of which was also seen in 1909 when he wrote an essay calling aviation the "cavalry of the future".

Vandegrift did not serve in France during World War I, but was posted around the world including seeing combat in Veracruz, Nicaragua, and Haiti. By the United States' entry into World War II he was a Brigadier General assigned to the 1st Marine Division. In March 1942 he was promoted to Major General and assumed command of the divsion. As the United States moved into the offensive against our Japanese enemy in August 1942 with the Guadalcanal Campaign, Vandegrift's division was the lead assault force.

For his valor and leadership on the day of the initial landings, he was decorated with the second-highest award his Corps could grant: the Navy Cross. For his resolute and indefatigable fighting spirit over the next four months, he received our Nation's highest: the Medal of Honor.

Friday, December 07, 2012

TFH 12/7: Service Cross Awards from Pearl Harbor

Last year for the 70th Anniversary of the Japansese Attack on Pearl Harbor, I penned a blog post entitled "On the Darkest Day, Sixteen Shined" that spoke to the courage and sacrifice of the sixteen Medal of Honor recipients for their conspicuous valor during the attack.

Thanks to the Military Times' Hall of Valor, I have been able to identify fifty-eight American heroes who received either the Distinguished Service Cross (Army Air Forces) or the Navy Cross (Navy, Navy Reserve, and Marine Corps) for gallantry in action on December 7, 1941 on the Hawaiian Islands.

Please take a moment to read a few of the award citations for these brave men who showed the best the American fighting man can, even in defeat. Names preceded by an asterisk indicate the man was killed in action durin the Pearl Harbor attack. All awards are for the Navy Cross, save five indicated by "[DSC]" at the end.

Pearl 70: A Reprise

Last year was the 70th Anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, hurtling the United States into World War II.

I invite you today to go back and look at my posts from last year commemorating the event:

Never Forget.

Apollo+40: Godspeed the Crew of Apollo 17 - The Launch

Thousands assembled on December 6, 1972 on Florida's space coast for the launch of Apollo 17. It was sure to be an incredible show as the launch would take place at night due to the launch window required to meet the mission's date with the Taurus-Littrow region of the Moon.

Among the VIPs seated in the bleachers near the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center was Charlie Smith, thought at the time to be the oldest living American and a staggering 130 years old (since debunked). Smith was a doubter, and was quoted as saying about the Saturn V sitting on Pad 39A, bathed in spotlights:
I see that's a rocket, but th' ain't nobody goin' t' no moon. Me, you, or anybody else.
But, go they would, one of the men for the second time, like the eight flights and twenty-two men before them.

Commander (CDR) Gene Cernan, Command Module Pilot (CMP) Ron Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Jack Schmitt boarded their spacecraft, Command/Service Module 112 (CSM-112) named America, atop their Saturn V in the early evening hours

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Apollo+40: Prelude to Man's Last Voyage to the Moon

Back on April 20, 2012, as I was attending BlogCon CLT, I wrote an essay entitled "Where We've Been, and Where We Need to Go Back", as I observed that the date coincided with the 40th anniversary of the fifth manned landing on the Moon by Apollo 16. In it, I lamented my failure to complete my "Apollo+40" series. The United States of America executed the greatest achievement in human history, and we did it six times. I'm not going to let the sixth and final one go unrecognized here at Their Finest Hour.

I hope you come back regularly to join me as we recount the final flight of Apollo - Apollo 17 - over the next two weeks.

At 11:53AM Eastern Standard Time on December 7, 1972 (40 years before the time of this post), the launch countdown resumed at T-minus 9 hours for the final flight of a manned Saturn V launch vehicle the world would ever see. The rocket, also known as SA-512, was made up of S-IC stage #12, S-II stage #12, and S-IVB stage #512.

Atop the Saturn V was Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM) 114, Lunar Module (LM) 12, and Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) 3. The assembled hardware stood on Pad A of Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center - an expendable tribute to the thousands of Americans who made Apollo's journeys to the Moon possible, many of whom had already lost their jobs with the end of the program, and many more who would be unemployed with the launch and mission completion.

Apollo 17's crew chose names for their spacecraft that reflected both the Nation that sent them and the enormity of the endeavor. The CSM would be known as America; the LM Challenger.

Three Astronauts would make Man's final journey to the Moon. One of them had been to the Moon before. Two had never been in space. One would be the first non-pilot to fly in space; appropriately, as the first pure scientist to travel in space and to the Moon, he was a geologist. Who were these great Americans?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

TFH 12/5: Major Thomas E. Dayton, USAF

Thomas E. Dayton was born in New York on June 3, 1933. He began his military service on July 7, 1953 when he entered the United States Military Academy, West Point. As the United States Air Force hadn't opened their own service academy yet, he opted to join that service and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant after graduating in June of 1957. Dayton earned his pilot's wings and in various roles flew the North American F-86 Sabre, the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, and the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.

When it came time for Dayton to fly into battle over Southeast Asia with the 22nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, he piloted a Douglas A-1 Skyraider. The 22nd's primary mission was to interdict and destroy enemy forces and supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as well as other attack missions and the vital role of escorting and coordinating search and rescue missions for downed American fliers. It was during one of the last on December 5-7, 1969 that then-Major Dayton repeatedly flew into hostile fire during fifteen attempts to rescue a shot-down colleague. The rescue was finally successful on the sixteenth attempt, and for his incredible courage in the skies Dayton was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

TFH 12/4: LTJG Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., USN

In recent days, Their Finest Hour has chronicled the stories of several heroes from the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, part of the Korean War's first winter. Medal of Honor recipients such as Lieutenant Colonel Raymond G. Davis, Lieutenant Colonel Don C. Faith, Jr., Sergeant James E. Johnson, and First Lieutenant Frank N. Mitchell - along with Navy Cross recipient Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Fred T. Foster - braved and battled not just a brutal Chinese Communist enemy but the brutal cold and conditions of the Korean winter.

Today's honoree beyond any shadow of a doubt embodied both what it means to go "above and beyond the normal call of duty" and the lengths to which the American fighting man will go to see that no man is left behind. While this post bears the name of just one man, it is really about two officers of the United States Navy whose lives are forever linked by the events of December 4, 1950.

Monday, December 03, 2012

TFH 12/3: Lieutenant Colonel Raymond G. Davis, USMC

Raymond Gilbert Davis was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia on January 13, 1915. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1938, and soon afterwards was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. During World War II, he served with the 1st Marine Division and participated in the Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester campaigns.

By April 1944, Davis had been promoted to Major and given command of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. He led the battalion in the attack on Peleliu in September 1944. Davis was wounded in the first hour of the landings, refused evacuation, and led his Marines in the attack for seven days against the heavily fortified Japanese enemy. He was decorated with the second-highest award for valor as a result: the Navy Cross.

After World War II, Davis remained in the Marines and was given command of the 1st Marine Division's 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment when they were committed to combat in the Korean War in August 1950. Now a Lieutenant Colonel, Davis let the battalion in the attack to relieve Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Davis' leadership of 1/7 through intense winter combat seized the Toktong Pass and allowed both the 7th Marines and their sister 5th Marine Regiment to escape destruction or capture at the hands of the Chinese Communists. For this instance of battalion command above and beyond the normal call of duty in the face of an armed enemy, he was decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

TFH 12/2: Sergeant James E. Johnson, USMC

James Edmund Johnson was born in Pocatello, Idaho on New Year's Day, 1926. At age 17 he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on the service's 168th birthday: November 10, 1943. He served honorably with the Marines for the rest of World War II in the Pacific, including taking part in both the Peleliu and Okinawa landings. He was discharged back to civilian life on February 7, 1946.

Two years of life as a college student and a machinist didn't satisfy the 22-year old Idahoan. He reenlisted with the Marines on January 13, 1948. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, he was part of the 1st Marine Division and participated in the Inchon landing in September.

By November, the UN forces led by the Americans had almost conquered North Korea when the Chinese Communists intervened. Thousands of Americans found themselves surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir, including Johnson.

One of the Marines' mantras is "every man a rifleman." On December 2, 1950, Johnson was a squad leader of a provisional rifle platoon made up of artillerymen from the 11th Marine Regiment attached to Company J, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. As his unit was about to be overwhelmed, he looked death in the face and stood alone to cover the withdrawal of his comrades. His heroism above and beyond the normal call of duty resulted in the presentation of the Medal of Honor.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

TFH 12/1: The Battle of Tassafaronga

American forces ashore on Guadalcanal had made great progress against our Japanese enemies by the close of November 1942. From the Japanese perspective, the situation was desperate. Their occupying forces were effectively cut off by sea and air and were slowly being strangled by lack of supplies.

The Japanese detailed a force of eight destroyers - six of which would be carrying supply barrels to be floated ashore to their beleaguered troops - to try and run past American vessels during the night of November 30-December 1, 1942. The Japanese knew it would be a dangerous mission as the ships would likely be far outgunned if discovered. The Imperial Japanese Navy units had one thing in their favor though: the Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedo.

The United States Navy assumed that enemy torpedoes could only be launched from about six miles away when in reality their range was double that. Enemy surface ships could fire torpedoes at our ships before they came into gun range - with disastrous effect.

Eleven American ships sailed into Ironbottom Sound in between Guadalcanal and Savo Island on November 30, 1942 to confront the Japanese supply attempt. That night into December 1, 1942 would later be known as the Battle of Tassafaronga (for the destination of the Japanese ships).

Friday, November 30, 2012

TFH 11/30 Edition 2: Private First Class Charles George, USA

Charles George, a Cherokee Indian, was born in Cherokee, North Carolina on August 23, 1932. He was sent to war in Korea with the United States Army's 45th Infantry Division. His assignment was fitting as the 45th had a tradition of high numbers of Native American soldiers, which was also reflected in the division's insignia and their nickname: "Thunderbird".

Sixty years ago today on November 30, 1952, George was a Private First Class with the 45th's 179th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, Company C. While on a raiding mission, an enemy grenade landed amongst George and two of his comrades. His defensive action to smother the grenade with his own body ultimately cost him his life and assured the posthumous award of our Nation's highest honor.

TFH 11/30 Edition 1: Navy Crosses for Two Marine Raiders

The United States Marine Corps formed the Marine Raiders in the early days of America's involvement in World War II to conduct amphibious raids behind enemy lines. The 2nd Raider Battalion, known as "Carlson's Raiders" after their commander Lieutenant Colonel Evans Carlson, successfully carried out the raid on Makin Island on August 17-18, 1942, resulting in one Marine being decorated with the Medal of Honor and 19 Marines and 2 sailors with the Navy Cross.

The 2nd Raiders then fought on Guadalcanal itself. Seventy years ago today on November 30, 1942, one of Carlson's platoons took a Japanese encampment completely by surprise, routed the enemy, and saw at least two of the attackers add Navy Crosses to the Raiders growing tally of decorations for valor.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

TFH 11/29: Staff Sergeant Robert J. Pruden, USA

Robert Joseph Pruden was born on September 9, 1949 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He joined the United States Army in 1967; evidence suggests that based on his selection/volunteering for Non-Commissioned Officer candidacy and Ranger training he was a volunteer and not a draftee.

The Vietnam-era 75th Ranger Infantry Regiment (Airborne) was constituted as a number of separate specialized infantry companies to be trained and delegated to individual divisions or corps for long range patrol and reconnaissance duties. The 75th's Company G was assigned to the 23rd Infantry Division, better known by its moniker "Americal", for those duties in Vietnam.

On November 29, 1969, then Staff Sergeant Pruden, just 20 years old, commanded a six-man reconnaissance and ambush team that was itself ambushed by a much larger enemy force. Pruden left himself exposed to enemy fire to draw the enemy's attention away from his wounded comrades and to provide enough cover until evacuation helicopters could arrive. He lost his life on that field of battle, and his indomitable courage and supreme sacrifice were recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

TFH 11/28: HM3 Fred Townsend Foster, USN

A few days ago, I blogged about Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class William B. Barber, a Navy Cross recipient from the Vietnam War who showed incredible courage and devotion to duty while caring for wounded Marines.

Today's Their Finest Hour honoree is another Navy Corpsman who received the same award for his courage in the care and defense of wounded Marines during the Korean War. On November 28, 1950, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Fred Townsend Foster was continually under communist attack as he cared for thirty wounded Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Unfortunately, little is known about this heroic sailor, besides the words of his Navy Cross citation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TFH 11/27: Lieutenant Colonel Don C. Faith, Jr., USA

Don Carlos Faith, Jr. was born in Washington, Indiana on August 26, 1918. He intended to follow his father into the United States Army and applied to the United States Military Academy, West Point but was rejected on medical/dental grounds. After graduating from Georgetown University in 1941, he was again found medically ineligible for service during his draft physical, appealed, and was accepted into the Army on June 25, 1941. He attended Officer Candidates School, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on February 26, 1942.

Faith served for most of World War II with America's first airborne fighting force: the 82nd Airborne Division. He jumped into battle with the "All Americans" on each of the four times they did so: Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and Grave/Nijmegen. By war's end he was a Lieutenant Colonel on the staff of Major General Maxwell Taylor. He remained in the Army, and in 1950 was the commander of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment on occupation duty in Japan with the 7th Infantry Division.

With the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, the 7th's formations were scavenged to provide reinforcements for the American forces on the Korean peninsula. After receiving replacements from the United States and by South Korean conscripts, the division was committed to battle and participated in the landings at both Inchon and Wonsan.

In the early winter cold and snow of November 1950, the Chinese Communist forces pouring into Korea engaged the Americans and allies in what became the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. For four days at the battle's outset until he was listed as missing in action and presumed killed, Lieutenant Colonel Faith led his battalion at every level both at his headquarters and in direct action against the enemy as they broke out from being surrounded. His actions resulted in the award of the Medal of Honor.

Monday, November 26, 2012

TFH 11/26: First Lieutenant Frank N. Mitchell, USMC

Frank Nicias Mitchell was born on August 18, 1921 in Indian Gap, Texas. He grew up in Roaring Springs, Texas, graduating from Roaring Springs High School in 1938. In 1939, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Pacific throughout World War II. He received an officer's commission in 1945.

Mitchell stayed in the Marines after the war, and found himself back in combat as the 1st Marine Division entered the Korean War in 1950. On November 26, 1950, winter was setting in on the Korean peninsula. About one month before, Communist China sent their army into battle in support of their North Korean allies and began to beat back the American and UN forces to the south.

On that day, First Lieutenant Frank Mitchell, leading a rifle platoon of Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, charged to the front of his men when they were ambushed. Despite his own wounds, he consolidated his unit's defenses, held strong during hand-to-hand fighting, and when there was only one way to cover the withdrawal of his wounded comrades, he fought alone to his death. His valor above and beyond the normal call of duty was recognized with our Nation's highest honor.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

TFH 11/25: HM3 William B. Barber, USNR

The United States Marine Corps relies on sailors from the United States Navy to provide their medical care - both in and out of combat. After recruit training, men and women who want to become US Navy Hospital Corpsmen learn their medical trade at the Military Education & Training Campus, Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

After their base Navy training, the Hospitalmen (to include women) who will serve with the Marines then go to one of the Field Medical Training Battalions, located at either Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (East) or Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. At the FMTB, they learn the battlefield skills necessary to support Marines in the field, as well as the additional medical skills needed to care for those with the grievous injuries inflicted by modern weapons.

On November 25, 1968, a Navy Corpsman serving with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in combat in Vietnam charged into danger four times to save four different Marines from the enemy and cared for them until they could be evacuated. Hospitalman William B. Barber - promoted to Hospitalman 3rd Class by the time of the award - received the Navy Cross (our Nation's second-highest award for valor) for his courage under fire and risking his life to save others.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

TFH 11/24: 2LT Mark S. Steiner, USA

Mark Stephen Steiner was born on Armistice Day, November 11, 1948 (Veterans Day was so named in 1954). His hometown was Ogden, Utah. At just 19 years old, he graduated from Officer Candidates' School and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army's artillery branch in 1968. He arrived for combat in Vietnam (click the "full profile" link at this page) on September 12, 1968 and joined Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery Regiment, then part of the 9th Infantry Division.

Just thirteen days after his 20th birthday, Lieutenant Steiner was attached as a forward observer to the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. Steiner was with 2-60's Company A on a reconnaissance-in-force mission in the Long An province in Vietnam's Mekong Delta on November 24, 1968 when the infantry came under heavy fire from a fortified communist enemy force. He set aside his role as a gunner and engaged the enemy directly to protect the wounded soldiers around him. His courage in the face of the enemy inspired the soldiers around him to attack.

The young lieutenant was cut down by the enemy, and his gallantry was posthumously recognized with the second-highest award the Army could grant: the Distinguished Service Cross.

Friday, November 23, 2012

TFH 11/23: Three Marines, Two Enemy Machine Guns on Guadalcanal

The 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment was a comparative newcomer to the Guadalcanal Campaign, beginning combat operations ashore with the 2nd Marine Division on November 2, 1942.

On November 23, 1942, two Japanese machine guns blocked the advance of 1/8. Three young United States Marines volunteered to take them out. 19-year old (born April 27, 1923) Private Clarence Lee Evans hailed from Saginaw, Missouri and had enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on May 31, 1941. Private William F. Richey came from Tyler, Texas.

The name of the third Devil Dog is lost to history. It's not known what if any recognition he received for the attack, but both Evans and Richey - one who lost his life that day, one two days later - were posthumously decorated with the United States' second-highest award for valor: the Navy Cross.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

TFH 11/22: Major Charles J. Loring, Jr., USAF

Charles Joseph Loring, Jr. was born in Portland, Maine on October 2, 1918. He enlisted in the United States Army in March 1942 for service during the Second World War and joined the Army Air Corps. Loring was selected as an aviation cadet in May 1942 and trained as a fighter pilot.

He spent his early flying years on antisubmarine patrols in the Caribbean Sea and the Panama Canal area until sent to fly with the United States Army Air Forces building in Great Britain for the invasion of Europe, arriving there in March of 1944. Loring flew 55 missions against Nazi Germany and occupied Europe. During his 55th mission on December 24, 1944, he was shot down, captured, and remained a prisoner of war until his liberation two days before V-E Day on May 6, 1945.

Loring stayed in uniform during peacetime and transitioned to the United States Air Force when it became its own service on September 18, 1947. He found himself flying in combat again during the Korean War. Loring flew as an instructor and operations officer with both the 36th and 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons equipped with the Lockheed P-80/F-80 Shooting Star, completing another 50 combat missions.

Loring's 51st mission over Korea found him leading a flight of four Shooting Stars for close air support of ground troops. A forward air controller identified an enemy artillery position that was decimating South Korean soldiers. As Loring began his bomb run, his aircraft was hit by Chinese Communist antiaircraft fires. He knew his plane was doomed - and also that his bombs had to be placed on their target and the enemy artillery destroyed, lest the lives of countless friendly soldiers be lost. Major Loring chose to make his plane the bomb, and for his heroic sacrifice, was posthumously awarded our Nation's highest honor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TFH 11/18: Major Colin Arnold Clarke, USAF

Blogger's note: My apologies to the legacy of this post's subject as this should have appeared on Sunday, November 18, 2012 - the 40th anniversary of the events.

Colin Arnold Clarke, known as "Arnie", was born on August 31, 1935 in Seattle, Washington. He began service to our Nation when he enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve on January 3, 1954. While serving with the United States Navy, he graduated from the University of Washington in 1958 and later was honorably discharged on May 3, 1960 so he could attend Officer Training School for the United States Air Force. He was commissioned on May 9, 1960 and received his pilot's wings in September of 1961.

Clarke served four tours during the Vietnam War. During his fourth on November 18, 1972, he directed a search and rescue mission that retrieved two downed American airmen from the clutches of the enemy. He received the Air Force Cross for his heroism.

TFH 11/21: SFC Dave W. Wentzel, USA

Dave Wesley Wentzel was born on February 25, 1924. His hometown of record was Mover County, Minnesota, and his service to our Nation began in the United States Army during World War II. I wasn't able to locate any information about his World War II service, but based on his having a "regular Army" service number, he either volunteered for service initially or stayed in the peacetime Army after the war.

As 1951 was winding down, the Army's 1st Cavalry Division was completing more than 500 consecutive days of combat service in the Korean War and was about to rotate out. Wentzel was a platoon sergeant with Company F (2nd Battalion/Squadron) of the 8th Cavalry Regiment. On November 21, 1951, Sergeant First Class Wentzel's unit was manning an outpost when they came under attack by a much larger enemy force. Under the Minnesotan's leadership and indefatigable courage, the position was held. Wentzel didn't survive the battle, but his heroism lives on in the citation for the second-highest award he could have received: the Distinguished Service Cross.

Monday, November 19, 2012

TFH 11/19: Captain Joseph J. Foss, USMCR

Joseph Jacob Foss was born on April 17, 1915 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. After the death of his father in an electrical accident, he was forced to drop out of school at age 17 to help run the family farm. He was able to return to school, graduated, and then attended the University of South Dakota. While in college, Foss enlisted in the South Dakota National Guard and served with them from 1937 to 1940. 

After graduating from USD in 1940, and already a private pilot, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and entered the Naval Aviation Cadet program. Foss received his officer's commission and "wings of gold" as a Naval Aviator but at age 26, was judged to be too old to be trained as a fighter pilot. Regardless, he got himself checked out in and qualified to fly the Grumman F4F Wildcat and persisted in his desire to fly fighters. 

Finally, in June 1942 as the tempo of World War II in the Pacific increased and more fighter pilots were needed, Foss' request was granted and he joined Marine Fighter Squadron 121 (VMF-121). As VMF-121's executive officer from October 9 to November 19, 1942 during the Guadalcanal Campaign, Foss personally shot down 23 Japanese aircraft and the squadron as a whole destroyed 72. For his leadership, aerial skill, and conspicuous gallantry, he was decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

TFH 11/15: PFC Mack A. Jordan, USA

Mack Alvin Jordan, born on December 8, 1928, was a twenty-two year-old infantryman from Collins, Mississippi. He was in the United States Army for just a year, and given that his service started in 1951 along with his age, I'm conjecturing that he was drafted for service in the Korean War.

As with countless other American citizens called to serve their Nation in times of crisis, Mack Jordan answered. While serving with the 24th Infantry Division on November 15, 1951, he volunteered to remain behind to cover the withdrawal of his platoon and disrupted the communist enemy's attack by charging an entrenched machine gun. Even after he was mortally wounded, he continued to fight until his unit regained its former position. His family later received the Medal of Honor he so assuredly deserved.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

TFH 11/14: Lieutenant Colonel Harold W. Bauer, USMC

Harold William Bauer was born to German immigrants in Woodruff, Kansas on November 20, 1908. He began his service to our Nation when he was appointed to attend the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland in 1926. After graduating with the Naval Academy class of 1932, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

Bauer began World War II as a Captain, and became the founding commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 212 (VMF-212), the "Lancers", when the squadron was activated on March 1, 1942. He received his promotion to Major on April 29 of that year, and a rapid follow-on to Lieutenant Colonel on August 7.

VMF-212 flew from Vanuatu in the South Pacific and flew missions against the Japanese as part of the Guadalcanal Campaign. Bauer's personal courage in the skies, and superior leadership of his squadron, saw Lancer flying leathernecks destroy 92 enemy aircraft, at least eleven of those by Bauer himself. For six months of courage above and beyond the normal call of duty, he received the Medal of Honor.

Monday, November 12, 2012

TFH 11/12-13: The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal - Four Medals of Honor

Four brave United States Navy sailors were decorated with our Nation's highest award - the Medal of Honor - for their heroic actions during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, part of the larger Guadalcanal Campaign, seventy years ago: November 12-13, 1942. Three of the four gave their lives.

Rear Admiral Daniel Judson Callaghan was born on July 26, 1890 in San Francisco, California. He graduated with the United States Naval Academy class of 1911, served as a surface warfare officer primarily on destroyers and cruisers, and was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Naval Aide in the months approaching the United States' entry into World War II. Callaghan was promoted to Rear Admiral in April of 1942. He was the commander of Task Group 67.4 with his flag aboard the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco (CA-38). Incoming Japanese fires struck the bridge of the San Francisco, killing Admiral Callaghan and most of the ship's chain of command.

Boatswain's Mate First Class Reinhart John Keppler first enlisted in the Navy in February 1936, was honorably discharged, and reenlisted on April 25, 1940. Keppler was also aboard the San Francisco. After a Japanese torpedo plane crashed into the ship, he put himself at severe risk to both rescue survivors and perform damage control and firefighting efforts that were credited with saving the cruiser to fight again another day.

Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless, the son of Commodore Byron McCandless (himself a World War I Navy Cross recipient), was born in August 1911 and graduated with the United States Naval Academy class of 1932. He was the communications officer aboard the San Francisco and took command of the ship when Rear Admiral Callaghan and the rest of the ship's command staff were killed.

Rear Admiral Norman Scott was born August 10, 1889 in Indianapolis, Indiana and was a classmate of Rear Admiral Callaghan with the Naval Academy class of 1911. As with Callaghan, Scott was a surface officer and served mainly in cruisers and destroyers before World War II. He received his promotion to Rear Admiral in May 1942 and was Callaghan's second-in-command of the combined cruiser/destroyer group during the battle. His flagship, the USS Atlanta (CL-51), was struck by a Japanese torpedo and in the confusion of battle, came under friendly-fire from the San Francisco's 8-inch guns.

Here are the stories and citations for these four great Americans.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

TFH 11/10: Lance Corporal Christopher S. Adelsperger, USMC

Christopher S. Adelsperger was born on October 24, 1984 and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was a three-sport high school athlete, and left the University of New Mexico to enlist in the United States Marine Corps - one of the many who felt our Nation's call in the days after 9/11.

On November 10, 2004 - coincidentally the Marine Corps' birthday - he was serving as a rifleman with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in combat in Iraq as part of the 1st Marine Division's Regimental Combat Team 1. When his platoon was clearing houses in Fallujah, Lance Corporal Adelsperger repeatedly put his own life at extreme risk to protect his fellow Marines and press the attack against the enemy.

His chain of command recommended him for the Medal of Honor, and ultimately he received the second-highest award he could have for valor: the Navy Cross.

Friday, November 09, 2012

TFH 11/9: The Final Three of the Great War

On November 9, 1918. The "Great War" - World War I - had just two days left to rage before the armistice that took effect at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. Fighting continued right up to the end, as did incredible acts of courage by our fighting men.

Three brave soldiers of the United States Army earned the Medal of Honor that day. They were the three final recipients for the First World War.

One of them was half-Mexican and used his American father's name so as not to be placed in a segregated unit that wouldn't be allowed into combat.

Another wasn't even an American yet, as he didn't become a naturalized citizen until 1919.

All three were heroes. They were Private David B. Barkley (Barkeley), Private First Class Harold I. Johnston, and Sergeant Ludovicus M. M. Van Iersel.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Bonhomme Richard Election

I don't see how the candidate who lost to John McCain, who then got creamed by Barack Obama, can now be considered the best option to beat Barack Obama. -- Me, in one form or another, on Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, starting at least 18 months ago.
Tuesday sucked. To borrow from Churchill, it was a "colossal...disaster". Amazingly enough, I do find some encouragement - minor as it may be - but the road ahead is going to be long and hard. As a lot of people are doing, I'm pondering how to move forward with conservatism and libertarianism, and what role I can play in the equation. I know I can do more, but am uncertain as to where to start. When I figure it out, I'll be sharing. I know there will be a lot of introspection, and a lot of teaching - so expect me to wax philosophically here more often than I have been doing.

Since everybody else has given an election post-mortem, I figured I might as well throw in my two cents too.

TFH 11/8 Edition Two: Colonel William H. Wilbur, USA

William Hale Wilbur was born in Palmer, Massachusetts on September 24, 1888. He graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point in 1912 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Wilbur also attended the French military academy, where he was a classmate of Charles de Gaulle, and served in combat during World War I.

Seventy years ago today on November 8, 1942 - just as Colonel Demas Craw and Major Pierpont Hamilton had volunteered - now Colonel Wilbur carried a letter to Vichy French authorities in Morocco in an attempt to stave off hostilities and bloodshed as the British and Americans landed in North Africa during Operation Torch.

Colonel Wilbur completed his mission, and when he returned to the beachhead, assumed command of both infantry and armor and led them in an attack against a French battery firing on the landing Americans. As was the case with Craw and Hamilton, Wilbur was decorated with the Medal of Honor.

TFH 11/8 Edition One: Colonel Demas T. Crew & Major Pierpont M. Hamilton, USAAC

Seventy years ago today, American and British land forces began offensive operations against Nazi Germany and their Vichy French collaborators with the assault of North Africa codenamed Operation Torch.

At first light on November 8, 1942, American forces began to go ashore at Port Lyautey, Morocco. The Allies sought to have the Vichy French forces surrender without hostilities or a minimum of bloodshed, and two officers volunteered to take a message under a flag of truce to the French commanders and authorities. The two volunteers were US Army Air Corps/US Army Air Forces officers Colonel Demas T. Craw and Major Pierpont M. Hamilton.

Demas Thurlow "Nick" Craw was born on April 4, 1900 in Traverse City, Michigan. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1918, too late to see any service in World War I. He remained in the Army, received an officer's commission, and transitioned to the Air Corps in the late 1920s. Before the United States' entry into World War II, Craw was positioned as an observer with the Royal Air Force during which he flew on over 100 combat missions.

Pierpont Morgan Hamilton was born in Tuxedo Park, New York on August 3, 1898. He joined the United States Army on August 7, 1917 and became an aviation cadet in the Flying Service (as the Air Corps was then known). Illness prevented him from serving during World War I in France, and he left the Army on December 31, 1918. He applied for, and was appointed as a Major in the Air Corps, after the United States' entry in World War II on March 2, 1942.

Both of these men, one of whom was killed in action, received the Medal of Honor for their mission.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

TFH 11/6: ENS Kenneth H. Muir, USNR

The SS Nathaniel Hawthorne was a Liberty-type cargo ship. On November 6, 1942 - 70 years ago today - she was sailing into the Caribbean Sea with a load of bauxite, a key raw material for the manufacture and smelting of aluminum, when she was torpedoed by the Nazi Type IX submarine U-508.

On-board the Hawthorne, the officer-in-charge of the United States Navy armed guard, Ensign Kenneth H. Muir, USNR of New York, placed the lives of his sailors and the civilian merchant mariners above his own as the ship went down. His courage and devotion to duty led to the posthumous award of the Navy Cross.

Monday, November 05, 2012

TFH 11/5: Lieutenant Colonel Earl G. Cobeil, USAF

Earl Glenn Cobeil hailed from Pontiac, Michigan and was born on August 29, 1934. He flew the Republic F-105 Thunderchief for the United States Air Force and was shot down over Vietnam forty-five years ago today on November 5, 1967.  Cobeil was injured when he bailed out and was captured by the North Vietnamese. For three years he survived under torture and interrogation by both the North Vietnamese and their communist Cuban allies who had sent intelligence officers to Vietnam to collaborate in the torment.

He survived for three years in captivity until losing his life on or about November 5, 1970. Contemporaneous accounts from his fellow POWs indicate that his conduct in captivity was incredible for its indomitable courage. The Air Force posthumously awarded him their second-highest decoration: the Air Force Cross.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

TFH 11/1: Corporal Anthony Casamento, USMC

Anthony Casamento was born on November 16, 1920 in New York City. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 19 on August 19, 1920 prior to the United States' entry in World War II.

He landed on Guadalcanal with the 1st Marine Division in August of 1942. On November 1, 1942, the Americans ashore on the island launched an attack against the Japanese along the Matanikau River - exactly 70 years ago. Casamento, then a Corporal with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, kept one of his squad's machine guns in the fight, in spite of his own wounds and the entire gun squad being killed or wounded. He ultimately received the Medal of Honor for his courage.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

TFH 10/27: Second Lieutenant George H. O'Brien, Jr., USMCR

George Herman O'Brien, Jr. was born in Fort Worth, Texas on September 10, 1926. He grew up in Big Spring, Texas, and after graduating from high school there in 1944, served our Nation during World War II as a seaman in the United States Merchant Marine. He returned to Texas after his wartime service in 1946.

O'Brien enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in July of 1949 while in college. On November 27, 1951 he was ordered to active duty and Officer Candidates' School. After being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and completing training, he was ordered to join the war in Korea with the 1st Marine Division's 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in September, 1952.

Only about one month after arriving in the combat zone, Lieutenant O'Brien courageously led his rifle platoon in a desperate charge against an entrenched Communist enemy position, and when they had seized their objective, organized the defense and made sure that no man was left behind - all while refusing aid for his own wounds. This was sixty years ago today: October 27, 1952.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bayonets? How About Some Bombers?

As my regular readers know, I'm big about chronicling the exploits of military heroes, particularly on "decade" anniversaries as I did earlier today for Mitchell Paige (Medal of Honor, 70 years, 10/26/1942) and Sherrod Skinner (Medal of Honor, 60 years, 10/26/1952). It turns out that there's a 50th anniversary to note today as well, but it's not one we should be proud of.

On October 26, 1962 - fifty years ago today - the United States Air Force took delivery of a Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bomber from the manufacturer, serial number 61-0040. That was the last B-52 to be manufactured.

That's right. The newest B-52 in our Air Force's inventory - the "H" model is the only left flying, 85 in the active force, 9 in the Air Force Reserve - is fifty years old today. Forget the President of the United States ridiculing bayonets or pooh-poohing cutbacks to the United States Navy; we have defense procurement issues across the board that jeopardize our Nation's defense.

TFH 10/26 Extra: Second Lieutenant Sherrod E. Skinner, Jr., USMCR

Sherrod E. Skinner, Jr. was born on October 28, 1929 in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a graduate of Harvard University and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on October 9, 1951. He was ordered to active duty the following day.

After completing training as an artillery officer, Lieutenant Skinner was sent to war in Korea and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines. While acting as an artillery forward observer sixty years ago today on October 26, 1952 - just two days before his 23rd birthday - he gave his life for our Nation while shielding his comrades from a grenade blast after having valiantly led the defense of his position against a massive Communist assault. He was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.

TFH 10/26: Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige, USMC

Mitchell Paige, born Mihajlo Pejić on August 31, 1918 to Serbian immigrants in Charleroi, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh), enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1936 after graduating from McKeesport High School

During the Guadalcanal Campaign, then-Platoon Sergeant Paige was commanding a machine gun section on October 26, 1942 (much as Sergeant John Basilone had the two previous days) against overwhelming enemy opposition. The best chronicle of his heroism with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment is simply his citation for the Medal of Honor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TFH 10/24-25: Sergeant John Basilone, USMC

I blogged last year at this time about John Basilone, before it occurred to me that as a commemoration of the Second World War, I'd be blogging about every World War II Medal of Honor recipient on the 70th anniversaries of their heroic acts.

Basilone had served in the United States Army in the 1930s and returned to civilian life in 1939. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1940 in hopes of getting back to the Philippines, where he had spent much of his Army service. It wasn't to be.

On October 24-25, 1942 - 70 years ago - as a Sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal during the Battle of Henderson Field, then-Sergeant Basilone commanded two machine gun sections that held off the attack of an entire Japanese regiment during the two-day battle. At the end, only John Basilone and two other Marines were left, and Basilone was reportedly fighting with just his M1911 pistol able to fire.

Monday, October 22, 2012

TFH 10/22: PFC Milton L. Olive, III, USA

Milton Lee Olive, III was born on November 7, 1946 in Chicago, Illinois. He joined the United States Army from that city in 1964, and in 1965 was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade - one of the first units committed to fighting in Vietnam.

On October 22, 1965, about two weeks shy of his 19th birthday, Private First Class Olive sacrificed his own life while saving four of his comrades by smothering an enemy grenade. He became the first African-American recipient of the Medal of Honor for the Vietnam War.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

TFH 10/18: The Day a Mogadishu Operation Went Right

Most Americans properly associate Mogadishu, Somalia with the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu (October 3-4) that resulted in the deaths of 18 US servicemen and 74 other casualties - and the Medal of Honor worthy heroism of Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart.

People forget that on October 18, 1977 - thirty-five years ago - Mogadishu was the site of a great victory over the forces of tyranny.

On Tuesday, October 13, 1977, Lufthansa Flight 181, a Boeing 737, departed Palma de Mallorca, Spain en route to Frankfurt, West Germany with a crew of five and 86 passengers...and four terrorists. The terrorists - two men, two women; two Palestinians, two Lebanese - who identified themselves as "Commando Martyr Halime", but really hailed from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization, had smuggled pistols on board and hijacked the plane.

In the wake of the Munich Massacre in September, 1972 - during which the PLFP offshoot Black September murdered 11 Israelis during the Olympic Games - the Germans founded Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG 9) within their Federal Police to prepare for the next attack. This would be their first test.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TFH 10/17: 2LT Harold Bascom Durham, Jr., USA

Harold Bascom Durham, Jr. was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on October 12, 1942. He was living in Atlanta, Georgia when he joined the United States Army in 1964, and was eventually commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Artillery branch.

Lieutenant Durham was assigned to the 6th Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, then one of the artillery components of the 1st Infantry Division engaged in combat in Vietnam. Five days after his 25th birthday on October 17, 1967, he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment as a forward observer for what became the Battle of Ong Thanh.

As the infantry ran up against and was ambushed by a heavily fortified enemy position and superior numbers in opposition, Durham placed himself in a leading position exposed to the enemy so as best to direct vital artillery fires onto the enemy positions. Even though he was wounded multiple times, his concern was solely for the soldiers surrounding him. He died with the radio still in his hand, calling in fires until his last breath, and was posthumously awarded our Nation's highest honor.